Nick Saban

Predictions 101 — Week 14


Last week, we went 5-2 straight and versus “the number,” nailing the three biggies at the top of the list.

Let’s see how we do with the regular season’s final set, which is dripping with BCS implications.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Nov. 29, thru Sat., Dec. 1)

1) No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia in SEC title game at Atlanta
Sat., Dec. 1 — 4 p.m. ET, CBS

This SEC championship game doubles as a national semifinal, but in our mind it’s also for all the marbles. Either the Crimson Tide or Bulldogs will earn the honor of winning the SEC’s seventh consecutive BCS championship with a victory over No. 1 Notre Dame in Miami on Jan. 7.

While quick to jump to the conclusion above, we’re slow to adopt the prevailing opinion that Alabama will beat Georgia.

If we had the choice, we’d take the Bulldog defense over the Tide’s. Georgia linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree are as good as it gets at their respective positions, and they’re just the beginning.

Despite the rock steady quarterbacking of junior A.J. McCarron, the Alabama offense will experience its share of three-and-outs.

When the Bulldogs have the football, the same can be said. The big question revolves around how Georgia triggerman Aaron Murray rises to the occasion.

Against the two toughest teams he’s played this season, Murray struggled. In the Dawgs’ lone loss, a 35-7 debacle at South Carolina on Oct. 6, he was just 11-of-31 for 109 yards with an interception. Although Georgia beat Florida, 17-9, three weeks later to earn this trip to Atlanta, Murray wasn’t the reason. In fact, the Bulldogs won in spite of the three INTs he threw during a 12-of-25 performance that yielded 150 yards and a touchdown pass.

Murray hasn’t been picked off in any of the four games since the Cocktail Party, but the fact that four of his seven interceptions this season came against the only two teams that are even remotely capable of playing defense at Alabama’s level is worrisome.

Murray, who also hasn’t been able to get Georgia over the hump in its past two bowl games, is trying something new this week. He imposed his own personal media blackout, presumably to restrict questions about not being a big-game quarterback from affecting his performance.

We don’t look at that as a good sign and it tipped the scales.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 7 1/2

The pick: Alabama 23-20

2) No. 14 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin in Big Ten title game at Indianapolis
Sat., Dec. 1 — 8:17 p.m. ET, FOX

The Badgers haven’t had the season they expected, losing five regular-season games and going .500 in league play. But they aren’t about to conclude that this just isn’t their year and roll over for the Cornhuskers.

It’s quite the opposite actually. This is Wisconsin’s second chance, a holiday gift like no other.

If they play their cards right, the Badgers are potentially 120 minutes of football away from being crowned Rose Bowl champions. (No Oregon in Pasadena … just Stanford or UCLA!)

Remember that Wisconsin gave Nebraska all it could handle in Lincoln on Sept. 29. The Badgers appeared headed to victory after taking a 27-10 lead in the third quarter, but the Huskers scored 20 answered points on four consecutive drives.

Wisconsin had a chance to win the game in the final minutes, but tailback Montee Ball fumbled on a fourth-and-one, allowing the Cornhuskers to run out the clock.

Ball ran for 90 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. But in the end, his team netted only 56 rushing yards.

Nebraska had far less difficulty, rumbling for 259 yards on the ground.

That’ll even out a bit in the rematch and the game will go down to the wire. Something tells us the Badgers will go for a two-point conversion or take some chances in the fourth quarter to avoid overtime, which has been a 0-3 proposition for them this season.

Opening point spread: Nebraska by 2 1/2

The pick: Nebraska 24-23

3) No. 17 UCLA at No. 8 Stanford in Pac-12 title game
Fri., Nov. 30 — 8 p.m. ET, FOX

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai‘i.

After winning Round 1, which determined that there would be a rematch with Oregon watching on TV, Cardinal head coach David Shaw said: “I expect them to give us everything. I expect this to be a very tough, physical game. It’s going to be 10 times harder. We’re going to get their best shot.”

We share that belief. After exchanging opening drive touchdowns and holding Stanford to a trio of three-and-outs, UCLA head coach Jim Mora clearly called off the dogs.

Following the 35-17 Cardinal victory, an ornery L.A Times columnist asked Mora if he treated the contest like an NFL preseason charade in order to avoid playing Oregon and hide game plan elements from Stanford. The exchange was supremely entertaining.

After the first-quarter stalemate, who could blame Mora for going vanilla against a team that’s clearly a far easier matchup than the Ducks? Why not avoid Eugene as if the plague had broken out there? Palo Alto is beautiful this time of year.

Check how many times Mora had Jonathan Franklin run the ball on first down. The predictable play calling was designed to finish the game, not win it.

Round 2 will be a back-and-forth affair that will surprise many. In the end, Mora’s gamesmanship will come up short in a tight contest. A final clock-killing drive, showing what Stanford is made of, will seal it.

Opening point spread: Stanford by 10

The pick: Stanford 34-27

4) No. 13 Florida State vs. Georgia Tech in ACC title game at Charlotte, N.C.
Sat., Dec. 1 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Both teams are busy licking their wounds on the way to this ACC Championship Game.

The Seminoles saw their faint BCS title hope go up in flames in a 37-26 loss to Florida last Saturday, while the Yellow Jackets were brushed aside, 42-10, by Georgia on its way toward a possible BCS title game appearance.

The difference in this contest is that Florida State’s defense has the ability to bounce back from its leaky outing. Georgia Tech’s problems on that side of the ball figure to persist.

That’s not to say that the Seminoles will shut down the Yellow Jacket option attack, after allowing the Gators to roam for 240 yards on the ground, but even with the loss of defensive end Tank Carradine to a knee injury, they clearly have the athletes to keep it in check.

Look for E.J. Manuel and the rest of the FSU offense to spring a bunch of big plays to easily claim a spot in the Orange Bowl (against … see below).

Opening point spread: Florida State by 13

The pick: Florida State 37-20

5) Louisville at Rutgers
Thurs., Nov. 29 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Cardinals are ticketed for the ACC and the Scarlet Knights are bound for the Big Ten, but we’re still talking about the Big East here, so this predicting business is unquestionably an effort in futility.

Nevertheless, there’s important stuff going on in Piscataway. If the Scarlet Knights win, they play in their first BCS game. If the Cardinals are victorious, they’ll likely get the Orange Bowl nod.

Cardinal quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will play with a broken left wrist. The Louisville running game is equally banged up with running back Senorise Perry on the shelf (ACL). In its last two games, Louisville has rushed for a total of only 75 yards.

All of that doesn’t add up to success versus Rutgers, which is allowing only 13.7 points per game.

Opening point spread: Rutgers by 2

The pick: Rutgers 26-17

Wisconsin RB Corey Clement facing two counts of disorderly conduct

Corey Clement, Isaish Wharton
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Wisconsin running back Corey Clement faces two counts of disorderly conduct for his role in a Nov. 8 altercation at a Madison apartment building.

This is not the first bit of news on the incident, as Wisconsin released a statement 13 days ago stating it knew Clement was involved, but only while attempting to break up a dispute between a security guard and a group of people.

In reality, according to the security guard’s telling of the story, the dispute was between Clement and the group of Asian males and females, according to WKOW. The altercation started verbally while the group was in an elevator when Clement and a female began arguing, with the running back allegedly stating “y’all need to get your hoe.”

The altercation became physical when the group exited the elevator and Clement struck one of the male members of the group. Three others were also charged for their roles in the incident.

Wisconsin released a statement recanting its earlier statement:

We were informed yesterday by Madison Police that Corey Clement was cited for two counts of disorderly conduct for his role in an incident on Nov. 8. When we first became aware of this incident, we knew this was a possibility.

We released a statement regarding Corey’s involvement in the incident on Nov. 12 in response to false information that was circulating. That statement was based off of information that we had at that time.

With the release of the full police report today, further details on the incident have come to light. Any disciplinary measures taken by UW head coach Paul Chryst relating to this incident are undetermined at this time and will be handled internally.

Clement has appeared in only three games this year, rushing 29 times for 155 yards and four touchdowns.

34 assistants in running for Broyles Award honor

Tom Herman
Associated Press
Leave a comment

If your school is in the market for a head coach, and they’re going to go the assistant coach route, there’s a fairly decent chance that the new sideline boss appears somewhere on this recently-released list.

Wednesday afternoon, the Rotary Club of Little Rock announced the 34 nominees for the 2015 Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding assistant coach.  Two former winners made the cut this year — Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart (2009) and North Carolina defensive coordinator Gene Chizik (2004, while at Auburn).

Of the 34 finalists, 19 come from Power Five conferences.  The AAC, ACC and SEC lead all leagues with five nominees each, while the Big Ten has four.  The MAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt claimed three nominees apiece, with the Big 12’s two is tied with the Mountain West for fewest among all conferences.

There are 16 defensive coordinators on the list and 13 offensive coordinators, along with one special teams coordinator (Utah State’s Dave Ungerer).  Only four non-coordinators made the cut: Georgia Southern running backs coach Dell McGee, Mississippi State quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, North Carolina State defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen, USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin.

Last year’s winner was Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, now the head coach at Houston.  Five finalists for this year’s award will be announced Nov. 30, with the winner being revealed Dec. 8.

• Alabama – Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebackers
• Arkansas – Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Arkansas State – Joe Cauthen, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
• Baylor – Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator
• Boston College – Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
• Bowling Green State – Sean Lewis, Co–Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Central Michigan – Greg Colby, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
• Clemson – Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Linebackers
• Colorado State – Will Friend, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
• Florida – Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator
• Florida State – Charles Kelly, Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs
• Georgia Southern – Dell McGee, Running Backs
• Georgia State – Jesse Minter, Defensive Coordinator
• Houston – Todd Orlando, Defensive Coordinator
• Indiana – Greg Frey, Co–Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
• Iowa – Greg Davis, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach
• Louisiana Tech – Tony Petersen, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Marshall – Chuck Heater, Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs
• Memphis – Brad Cornelsen, Co–Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Michigan – Tim Drevno, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
• Mississippi State – Brian Johnson, Quarterbacks
• Navy – Dale Pehrson, Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line
• NC State – Ryan Nielsen, Defensive Line
• North Carolina – Gene Chizik, Defensive Coordinator
• Ole Miss – Dan Werner, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Oklahoma – Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• South Florida – Danny Hope, Co–Offensive Coordinator/Run Game
• Temple – Phil Snow, Defensive Coordinator
• Toledo – Jon Heacock, Defensive Coordinator
• UCLA – Noel Mazzone, Offensive Coordinator
• USC – Tee Martin, WR/Pass Game Coordinator
• Utah State – Dave Ungerer, Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs
• Washington State University – Alex Grinch, Defensive Coordinator/Secondary
• Wisconsin – Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator

VIDEO: Harbaugh takes hammer to Buckeye nut at Bo’s grave

1 Jan 1987: Head coach Bo Schembechler of Michigan during their 22-15 loss to Arizona State at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport
Getty Images

I’m very quickly closing in on the end of my seventh year being in charge of this place, and the beginning of my eighth. One thing I’ve been very honest and straightforward about from the very beginning is the fact that I grew up in a decidedly Ohio State household, and that The Game between OSU and Michigan is one of the greatest rivalries in not only college football but all of sports.

With the annual hate-fest on tap this weekend, and with Jim Harbaugh‘s first go-round as head coach in the rivalry adding to the build-up, this is easily one of the most anticipated in what’s been a rather one-sided rivalry of late — the Buckeyes have won, on the field, 10 of the last 11.

So, in accordance with the spirit of the rivalry, Harbaugh, of course, took a maize-colored hammer in hand and smashed a Buckeye nut at the grave of his former head coach, UM coaching great Bo Schembechler.

Harbaugh played for Schembechler in Ann Arbor, and it’s quite obvious, from an impromptu graveside speech, that his former coach had an indelible impact on the man who found his way back home to the maize & blue:

Bo was my coach,” Harbaugh said. “I first met him when I was nine years old when my dad coached here at Michigan. He was the secondary coach. He was larger than life to our family. Excited and enthusiasm beyond what anybody could imagine. He would let us come to practice. We were ball boys, my brother John and I.

“And getting to play for coach Schembechler, what I can tell you is this, everything I base my entire professional life on and my personal life was learned here at the University of Michigan. It’s rooted at the University of Michigan, it was experienced at the University of Michigan. And it’s the team, the team, the team. We win as a team. Everybody does a little, and it adds up to a lot. When it came to honor, integrity, doing things at the highest level, Bo Schembechler set the standard.

“I draw daily inspiration from coach Schembechler, like so many that knew him, anybody that knew him, anybody that was associated with him, anybody that played for him or anybody that coached with him, he set the standard at the very highest level. One of the greatest of all time, Bo Schembechler.

Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State last weekend may have taken some of the shine off of Harbaugh’s first go-round in The Game, but the presence of The Khaki One — and his obvious connection to the past — ensures that the rivalry is in good hands moving forward.

Gamecocks may be focusing coach search on Tide DC Kirby Smart

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 19:  Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart yells at Reuben Foster #10 of the Crimson team prior to the University of Alabama A-Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 19, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Getty Images

A pair of signs that developed Wednesday are pointing to Nick Saban possibly needing to replace his long-time defensive boss this offseason.

According to Yahoo SportsPat Forde, current Houston head coach Tom Herman, who has a significant raise on the table from his current employer, is no longer a candidate for the same job at South Carolina as he’s withdrawn his name from consideration.  Forde writes that “Herman had been the school’s top choice to replace Steve Spurrier, sources said, and third-party discussions had been extensive.”

Nearly simultaneously, Bruce Feldman of reported that ‘Bama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart “has emerged as the frontrunner for the South Carolina head coaching vacancy.”  Forde also mentioned that Smart could be the Gamecocks’ Plan B, while wrote that the 39-year-old “has emerged as one of the leading candidates” for the vacancy in Columbia.

Smart has had a handful of opportunities to leave Saban’s staff since joining it in 2007, but has thus far chosen to remain in Tuscaloosa.

If Smart is indeed USC’s top candidate, a fellow SEC East rival could throw a wrench in those plans. Should Georgia and Mark Richt decide to part ways, Smart, who played his college football at UGA, would be a likely candidate to replace the long-time head coach.  In addition to playing for the Bulldogs, Smart began his career as an administrative assistant at his alma mater and coached running backs there in 2005 before joining Saban with the Miami Dolphins and, ultimately, the Tide.